[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40° and two chimneys; it is partly overgrown with roses or ivy. The front door is arched with a fanlight. It is the Tinker House in Rockford, Illinois.]

H. Bruckner

Robert H. Tinker House, Rockford, Built 1870's.

 p194  Swiss Cottage

An outstanding example of exotic architecture in Illinois is the Swiss Cottage at Rockford. Standing there for more than three-quarters of a century, this authentic reproduction of an Alpine chalet is one of the principal sights of the big city on the Rock River. During World War II many of the thousands of soldiers at near-by Camp Grant viewed it on their walks through the city — just as it was glimpsed by soldiers from the same camp during World War I. Recently, the Rockford Park District voted funds for the care and maintenance of this unusual landmark.

Not only is the Swiss Cottage, which stands at 411 Kent Street, on a bluff overlooking Kent Creek, of absorbing interest to architectural students, but it survives as a memorial to one of Rockford's noted personages of the 1870's and '80's. This man was Robert H. Tinker, who was elected mayor of Rockford in 1875. A cultured, widely traveled individual, Tinker was one of the "fathers" of the Rockford Grand Opera House, now gone, and also was instrumental in establishing the city's system of sixty-three attractive parks.

In the many world-wide travels he made with his wife, Robert Tinker is said to have become impressed with a chalet he saw in Switzerland and thereupon to have decided to build a home in this style when he returned to America. His determination was carried out and in the early 1870's the Swiss Cottage was built for him.

With its broad, low gables, overhanging eaves, and ornate galleries, it is an authentic reproduction of the type of dwelling so familiar in the Alps. At the time the cottage was built it stood on the attractive grounds of the Manny estate — one of the best-known estates in Rockford.

Into his comfortable frame house, with its twenty-six rooms, Tinker brought his large collection of books. This collection included hundreds of volumes which he acquired when Rockford's first community library was auctioned in 1865. All of the Tinker books are housed in the library, one of the most impressive rooms in the cottage. It is circular in shape and its ceiling reaches to the full height of the house. A circular staircase of intricately carved wood serves the second-floor balcony in the library.

In all the rooms of his house, Tinker installed the many antiques, art objects, curios, and souvenirs which he had collected in his travels. Here, too, are rare oil paintings, as well as fine examples of period furniture. Among the latter is a settee on which Abraham Lincoln is said  p195 to have sat. Another interesting item here is an early oil portrait of Mark Twain.

The Lincoln settee originally came from the mansion of John H. Manny, who moved to Rockford in 1853 with a reaper he had invented, began the wholesale manufacture of his invention, prospered and built for himself a mansion which stood across Kent Creek from the Swiss Cottage. When Cyrus H. McCormick sued Manny, charging infringement of the McCormick patent, the Rockford inventor was defended in the federal court at Cincinnati by Abraham Lincoln. Manny was cleared of the accusation. It was at this time that Lincoln is alleged to have used the settee in the Manny residence.

When Robert Tinker died, the Swiss Cottage was occupied by his widow. Here she lived for many years, surrounded by treasures that had been collected over a period of half a century. With her death, the cottage and five acres of landscaped ground around it passed to the Rockford Park District.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 11 Dec 07